Taking the Indoors Outdoor

Many of us have gardens – from pocket sized to sprawling acres. But how do we maximise how we use that space? We can think more like interior designers and divide the space into rooms with a function.

First think about the stuff you can’t change such as the movement of the sun and where light and shadow falls at different times of the day. Then go with what you have got.


This should be welcoming to guests and slightly sheltered. Consider using or building a boundary wall to protect you from chilly winds or nosey neighbours, this will also allow you to grow climbing plants and if you construct one with natural materials such as brick or stone there is an added secret benefit of absorbing the sun’s warmth and radiating back out in the evening. The floor should preferably be sound and even unless you are slightly mischievous and comfortable with the added tension and drama that comes with slightly unstable tables and chairs!


This is a relaxed seating area for pre-dinner cocktails ( a lockdown genius thing has been the invention of the Quarentini) or for reading the papers with a coffee, afternoon tea with friends or just a moment to enjoy the sun on your face (call it meditation and it’s not indulgent it’s self care) You can probably tell this area is as necessary as a place to put the bins so don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. This can be a formal courtyard or a space on the patio, ideally make it private and with some shade if needed. This area should be super flexible and able to adapt by leaving plenty of space. Think of it like the sitting room, start with a core of seating and coffee table space with the fixed garden arrangement. Then you can add planters for seasonal stars and extra seating for unexpected guests. More rustic materials help create the relaxed vibe with cobbles, bricks or pavers to allow self seeding plants to soften and blend the edges.


Slightly stolen from cultures with longer, warmer spells than our temperate climes but this may be the silver lining of climate change (the PC rebranding of the more apocalyptic now historic term global warming!) The now trending kitchen garden is elbowing out the oil drum BBQ. To be honest I can see that it is a natural evolution to create a more sophisticated and spacious cooking area incorporating pizza ovens and outdoor sinks. I have to remind the kids that back in the day pizzas were a frozen speciality and the only thing cooked on BBQ’s were sausages and these were so complicated to burn that only men were allowed to be in charge. I am still slightly puzzled with this one, unless we have repeats of Summer 2018, we are typically looking at a handful of outdoor cooking days unless you are determined to channel your inner Ray Mears in which case “Pizza oven?!?” But if you insist, practical me then suggests a low cost, rustic hardy Kitchen garden zone which can double up as a potting area, log store or dog washing/grooming area – I don’t need to remind anyone to scrub down between do I? If you use hardwood timbers to build a framework and flagstones used as counters, they can cope with everything a winter can throw at it and then scrub up as work surfaces and bar areas when the sun comes out. A reclaimed Belfast sink can be built and plumbed in and then use a hygienic liner or colander for washing salads/veg. A timber framework can be used to provide inclement weather protection and hang lights, herb containers and cooking utensils from.


Not just for the kids, this is where you get to let your hair down and help build a den because let’s face it kids don’t have it in them these days to do stuff like this on their own. Life has scared them into not being dirty, they have attention spans of small goldfish and vacuous spaces where creativity should be. We used to disappear into imaginary world’s for days on end where giants, monsters and dragons scared the wotsits out of us. We built rope swings and wooden stick rifles to swoop down and attack. We built campfires and toasted white sliced bread (marshmallows hadn’t been discovered that’s what Mum tells me, but I’m slightly concerned I might have been deprived) To help modern kids wean themselves away from screens you will have to kick start the process. Incorporate some whimsey into the garden imagine where a secret path, a creaky old door, a hidden garden and a half buried clock face might take them?


Every garden should have a spot that is secluded and quiet to allow you to sit and ponder or just sit and enjoy a peaceful moment all to yourself. Ideally this should be an all weather space with a winding path, plenty of plants and nature and a comfortable all weather seat. A small water feature would also attract wildlife, provide movement and a background sound to muffle annoying distractions. Such as the pitiful refrains “where’s my…..”, “when’s tea ready” and “where’s Mum gone?”.

I’m just going into the garden, I’ll only be a moment….


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